America's Next Top Model Gets Violent--and Controversial

Normally, my default mode is to defend artistic freedom from critics—but I can’t find any justification here. This feels like exploitation. Thoughts?

I don't happen to watch America's Next Top Model on the CW network. (Okay, I've seen it, but only because I was flipping past it to get PBS. I found it to be pretty mean-spirited and couldn't figure out who would watch it.) So I didn't see last week's episode, which has infuriated feminists. (See a report on the reaction to the episode here.) In the show, hosted by Tyra Banks, contestants did photo shoots in which the would-be models posed as victims of various forms of murder, from strangulation or stabbing. The images, which you can see here, are graphic.

Normally, my default mode is to defend artistic freedom from critics—but I can’t find any justification here. This feels like exploitation. Thoughts?

In a related story about violence in fashion imagery, go here to read about the Dolce & Gabbana ad that was pulled from magazines after critics said it featured a "fantasy rape scene."
—David Schonauer